WestJet selects aircraft for new regional service

Company said a decision on whether the airline will service Penticton will likely come late this year

The planes have been selected, but where WestJet will land them is still up in the air.

On Tuesday, WestJet announced it has selected Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. to supply up to 45 turboprop aircraft for its new regional airline, which Penticton has been trying to woo.

WestJet spokesperson Robert Palmer said the timeline for WestJet remains status quo.

“We will be announcing our schedule late this year or early next,” said Palmer via an email, adding that the delivery schedule for the planes is still being finalized.

Since WestJet announced they would be looking to expand to regional carriers, Penticton immediately launched a social media campaign. This started with a Facebook group called Bring WestJet to Penticton that now has 1,476 members, a Twitter hashtag to continue the conversation at #WestJetPenticton and in March a flashmob video was created at the Penticton airport and sent out on YouTube and generated over 9,000 views.

“We’re seeing great interest across the country from places like Penticton and Brandon who have even posted video on YouTube telling us why we should not forget their communities,” Gregg Saretsky, WestJet president and CEO told the Canadian Press.

The regional airline will fly the Bombardier Q400 NextGen to new cities, existing destinations not currently connected by WestJet and will allow for schedule improvements on certain routes where a smaller aircraft can efficiently provide greater frequency.

Bombadier lists the planes as designed for short-haul routes, with a 70-to-80 seat capacity. According to the aircraft builder the Q400 NextGen radically reduces carbon emissions thanks to its lower overall fuel burn and because of its new, high tech propeller design and advances in engine technology it reduces community noise pollution. The plane is also touted as being able to access smaller airports that have less runway.

WestJet has signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 Q400s with the option to purchase a further 25 aircraft. ATR had also submitted a proposal to WestJet.

“Both ATR and Bombardier put forward excellent proposals and ultimately we believe the Bombardier Q400’s combination of range, speed and seat density is the best choice to meet the needs of the market and how we plan to operate the regional airline. We look forward to working with another great Canadian company,” said Saretsky.